Instructables
Picture of Sous vide cooker for less than $40
sous vide
[soo VEED]
French for "under vacuum," sous vide is a cooking process in which food is encased in an airtight plastic pouch (typically vacuum sealed) and cooked for a long period of time at a (precise) low temperature.  

Using traditional methods of cooking, you might put a steak on a 750 degree grill, attempting to get the center of the steak to a perfect medium-rare temperature of 130 degrees, without cooking the outside of the steak until it's gray and lifeless.  To make it even more difficult, even when you take the steak off the grill, the temperature of the center continues to increase due to the heat of the meat surrounding it.

The magic of sous vide is that you cook the entire piece of meat at the precise temperature you like.  To cook a steak to the perfect medium-rare temperature of 130 degrees, you cook the steak in 130 degree water.  It takes a lot longer to get a steak to 130 degrees by cooking at 130 degrees, but the benefits are worth it.

1) It's impossible to over-cook.  No part of the steak can get over cooked.
2) The entire steak, from "coast to coast" is exactly how you like it.
3) Timing is easy.  I usually cook my steaks for somewhere around six hours.  If your guests are late, an extra hour (or three) doesn't make any difference.
4) The fat in the steak is always perfectly rendered.  It's absolutely amazing how great inexpensive cuts of meat turn out when cooked sous vide for six hours.  

There are many sous vide cookers out there.  I'm more of a do-it-yourself (cheap) kind of guy, so I built my own sous vide cooker for less than $40.  The fancy, $500 cookers have water circulators and tenth-of-a-degree precision, but from my experience, that isn't necessary.  For $40, you can make absolutely incredible steak!
 
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I made this exactly as instructed and it's completely awesome. Have since made three more for friends. I don't even know how to read an electrical diagram. I also made the vacuum chamber, also awesome, inexpensive, and highly useful. Will think of you every time I sous vide my sockeye!
Fabri4 days ago
I Made my sous vide controller last week and I'm using a deep fryer.
Even if your instructions are created and simple, I had some trouble wiring all the connections.
I cocked a beef steak and some salmon perfectly and I'm going on experimenting other recipes.
Thank you for this wonderful Instructables

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Xannadu22 days ago

Mine's been running great and I love it! Beef, Salmon, infused booze, and even a Beef Tongue for Tacos de Lengua came out wonderful. I'd like to take it to the next level and try racks of ribs in a beer cooler. This will obviously require a heat source and my guess is one larger in power than the internal relay could handle. My questions are:

A) Is it possible to rig up a Solid State Relay to a similar controller used in this build?

or

B) Would 600w of immersion heaters be up to the task of holding a decent size cooler to temp as to allow me to use the internal relay?

or

C) I will need a new build using a PID controller with a Solid State Relay output.

As a side note I've found when using my slow cooker with this build, it is MUCH quicker to heat a pot of water on the stove, then pour into the cooker and let the controller handle normalizing the temp to your setting rather than letting the cooker do the heavy early heating.

burkelashell (author)  Xannadu22 days ago
Xannadu,

That's awesome! It sounds like you're getting some great results.

The controller should handle a 600w immersion heater. Double check your controller specs, but the specification sheet on my controller says the relay contract capacity is 10 amps.

volts*amps=watts

Flipping the equation, watts/volts=amps

So, 600w/110v=5.5a

My concern would be about circulating the water. If you don't have some sort of pump to circulate the water, you will have hot spots and cold spots in the cooler. Do a search for "water pump sous vide" and you'll find lots of options. For example, here's on on Amazon shipped for less than $20. http://www.amazon.com/temperature-15GPH-Water-Pump-grade/dp/B004HHW0FU/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

Give it a try and let us know how it works. Take lots of pictures. If it works well, create your own "ible" so we can learn from your experience!

--Burke

Got my cooler version up and running. I used three Nopro 559 immersion heaters from Amazon I had seen in other DIY sous vide setups. I cut a piece of acrylic to fit the inner lip of my cooler, cut holes to feed the heaters through (tip: cut off the excess rubber around the heater plugs to make them fit through a hole small enough for the heaters to sit into nicely) and zap gooed (like a fast drying silicon) them into place. Then all it took was a plug splitter (power strip would work fine too) to attach to my controller and voila!

This setup allows me to cook larger/more items at once, comes up to temp faster than the crockpot, and due to the insulation holds temp VERY well. In testing I brought it up to 145 degrees and unplugged the heaters. After 2 hours the temp was only down to 143 degrees.

Thanks for all the help Burke I've been loving the sous vide experiments. I think I'm up to 6 controllers I have to build for people for xmas gifts :) Everyone else is getting Orange-Cherry Bourbon, Apple Pie Whiskey, and Limoncello all made using this controller! Now I'm off to make duck carnitas!

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burkelashell (author)  Xannadu10 days ago

Thanks for posting. I'm sure others will benefit from the "cooler version". Very nicely done. I love the acrylic.

I did build mine with a duplex receptacle with one switched and one constant hot so I could run a submersible pump I picked up for $7 from Amazon. In an alt build for a large container version the creator used three 300w immersion heaters through a Solid State Relay and PID controller. I am a bit afraid to run 900w into the controller's relay as it's getting really close to it's 10 amp limit. Do you think 2 300w (600w total) heaters will hold the temp for a large amount of water in a cooler? Also, here's my pics!

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burkelashell (author)  Xannadu22 days ago

>> I am a bit afraid to run 900w into the controller's relay as it's getting really close to it's 10 amp limit.

I'd go for it and run three. You're still within the limit.

Beautiful steak. Very nicely done!

Xannadu Xannadu22 days ago

Here's pics of my red wine infused pears, Brandy infused peaches (which also made peach brandy from the strained liquid), and beef tongue for Tacos de Lengua. To show this build's accuracy, Modernist Cuisine suggests running your bath 2 degrees F higher than you want your core temp even in a fancy $500 machine. I set the bath to 165 for the tongue and it came out a perfect 163.0. Great work Burk!

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MatthewD616 days ago

This guide is 100% awesome and it's easy to make, just like the food that comes out of it. Thank you.

hussmanne made it!1 month ago

Tried it out for the first time last night. Salmon came out great! Thank you for sharing. I have a project box that I'll be putting it in.

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tony.decoste.5 made it!2 months ago

Been looking for a sous vide hack for a while now. Easy Project! Cooking the first batch of 147 degree eggs now. What's everyone's source for recipes? Found this chart which is helpful https://www.polyscienceculinary.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Temp_Ref.jpg

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Here a easyer way.. To slow cook but its not Sous Vide per say as old as time.The "danger zone" according to the USDA is a window of time the meat is between 40F and 140F. That window of time should be no more than 2 hours. So how get around this?? And you want to get around this 140 overdone(medium) for a steak in my opinion 135 the perfect temp.. Easy pickled it, First I brine for 2 hours in at least a 20% salt bath, The I WASH IT a lot..Then I soak it in milk whey or kefir water for about 12 hour in a fridge fully covered.. (there no hostile bacteria left its been out competed, I know people that stored meat this way in a container with loose lib (nor air tight but secure) with 1/2 inch olive oil over the top to form a moisture seal for up to 6 years no refrigeration,basic Pickling) Now put it in the oven lowest setting (135 to 200) 12 hour later your good to eat Safe Soon as it internal temp 135!(now just turn it up to 500 and let it crisp/brown for 15 minutes or grab a blow torch! NOW EAT!) I do this with a 12 pound leg of lamb.They normally can not Sous Vide that big. But this way you can slow roast! Some one please try this with a camera!

For traditional sous vide, you aren't worried about the danger zone because you are vacuum sealing the food in a pouch while it is out of the zone, and then cooking it to a safe temp. If you are not using vacuum (like if you are using ziplock bags) then you should limit the cooking time to two hours or less.

oh remember to season it..lol forgot..here my favorite for lamb


  1. 1/2 cup rosemary leaves, minced
  2. 1/2 thyme leaves
  3. 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  4. 2 tablespoons Whole Dijon mustard
  5. 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  6. 1/2 cup honey
  7. Sage
  8. Lavender food grade
  9. Salt
  10. Ground black pepper
burkelashell (author) 3 months ago

Here's another take on the sous vide cooker by 24Eng. He uses a lot of the same ideas, but adds a 3.5 mm plug for the temperature controller, and a clever method to keep the temperature controller away from the sides of the cooker.

http://www.instructables.com/id/Sous-Vide-Oven-Controller/

pj627755 months ago
Great Instructable. I followed everything and got it working. I'm having a problem with over cooking. I put a steak in this morning for 4 hours at 135 and it's too done. I like my steak medium rare. What am I doing wrong?
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burkelashell (author)  pj627755 months ago

If you don't want that steak, I'll eat it! ;-)

One of the limitations of this cooker is the lack of a circulation pump to circulate the water and keep the temperature equal everywhere.

Three thoughts:

1) I like to put two separate vacuum packs with the temperature probe in between them. One pack tends to get cooked a little more than the other (which is good when you have multiple people eating with different preferences).

2) You might try some sort of "stand" to keep the steak off the bottom of the pot.

3) Try moving the probe around and see if there are "hot spots", and then try to adjust.

Let us know if you make an adjustment that improves your results.

-Burke

While poking around for DIY sous vide cookers I came across several that used an aquarium air pump and an air stone to circulate the water by bubbling air into water bath.

binarymein5 months ago

I made this a while ago and have been using it weekly at minimum ever since. Just now near the end of some 32 hour ribs, I found the controller displaying "HHH" instead of the temp. luckily I caught it before temps dropped into the danger zone but what is wrong with it? Maybe the sensor got water in it because of the extended soak time?

burkelashell (author)  binarymein5 months ago

I've never seen that. From my brief research, that looks like HHH means that the temperature is above the maximum temperature (but with this setup, that's impossible).

Were you able to reset the controller? Is it working now? If not, my guess would be that the probe is faulty.

After sitting about 3 hours outside the water bath I just tried it again. Said 121 degrees (obviously wrong) at first, then I touched it and it went to HHH again. I'll let it sit a few days and see if its maybe just water inside the sensor. Otherwise a 2 wire sensor off ebay is likely to fix it right? Thanks for finding out what the HHH means!
burkelashell (author)  binarymein5 months ago

>> Otherwise a 2 wire sensor off ebay is likely to fix it right?

I think so. The good news is that it'll cost you less than $5 (shipped) to find out.

blissb5 months ago

This is great! I made a couple of minor modifications to save money -- used a different box and didn't use the C14 receptacle. Came in less than $26! Thanks for this. Wish I'd thought of sacrificing an extension cord rather than getting the outlet -- I could have saved a couple more dollars. I was seriously starting to consider spending the $200+ on a pre-made. Now, I'm going to make a couple more of these for friends!

Colorado_Al made it!5 months ago

That is awesome! Thanks for the instructable! After reading your design, I ordered a similar controller, a project box and 6ft grounded extension cord. Foregoing the receptacle and outlet cut costs considerably. Mine came in at $29.70 for the controller. If I had been willing to wait for shipping from China, I could have saved $2.41, but I figured it was worth the extra to get the controller in 2 days by Amazon Prime.

Here is my parts list:

110v °F Controller with thermocouple http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00F05UI8O (If you choose "more buying choices" you can select one shipped by Amazon from the USA)

4.7"x4.7" Project box http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007POB8PK/

6' grounded extension cord http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0002J1KS0

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burkelashell (author)  Colorado_Al5 months ago

Nice, clean build! Well done!

Maybe I should change the name of the Instructable to "Sous vide cooker for less than $30" ;-)

Thanks! Couldn't have done it without your instructions. I've used it 3 times now and my wife went from extremely skeptical to asking what else we can use it for!

vatoniolo made it!5 months ago

Mine has cost me under $15 thus far... controller was $14 and a 90 cent box from my local thrift store. The same thrift store has a variety of crock pots for around $5, so even after the wire connectors I might stay under $20

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burkelashell (author)  vatoniolo5 months ago

I love the box. I'm not sure what my favorite thing about it is:

1) It's cheaper than the plastic box I used

2) It's easier to work with than the hard plastic.

3) It looks so freaking cool.

Nice job!

I'd make sure that the cord you are using can handle the load. I think the controller is rated at 10A, not sure how much your crock pot will draw. I like the bamboo box!

Excellent point. It states max 1625 watts so I have to keep it under 13 amps total, but I doubt a small crock pot will draw more than 2 amps...

Byte_M36 months ago

Built this sous vide sometime ago, and I've been using it a lot. Thanks for the awesome guide!

Did you ever play around with the settings of the controller? I didn't get much of a manual with mine. I was hoping there are some settings to make it more accurate, but I can't make mucht sense of it.

I also had a broken thermosensor. Fixed it by baking it in an oven at 90 degrees C overnight, figured water had gotten inside. Now it's working fine again, but I am now protecting it with a thin plastic bag from the water.

fns72010 months ago
I built this and I designed a compact 3d printable case to the controller device - it's free, you can download it from Thingiverse: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:188649
Byte_M3 fns7206 months ago

Thanks! I might try this if my other plan fails. For now I took a automatic timer switch, cut off the timer, installed the controller, and designed a 3D printed housing for it. Just waiting for the last parts for my printer to arrive (heated bed).

burkelashell (author)  fns72010 months ago
Wow. That's very cool. Very nicely done!
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fhaller6 months ago

This looks like a great project and I am going to build it, but have a question about making it a dual-purpose rig. This temp sensor is clearly for submersion. Do you believe this same design would work as a controller for a wood smoker if it had a different temp sensor attached? If so do you happen to have any recommendation? I was thinking of using a micro-plug in the controller box to make it easy to swap between the two temp sensors...

burkelashell (author)  fhaller6 months ago
I can't think of a reason it wouldn't work. Just be sure your sensor and controller can handle the temperature range, and you'll be good.
wlee177 months ago

My temperature controller immediately blew when I turned the power on. My lamp survived the trip though. My wires seem to be in place. Any idea on what could have happened? I'm using 220v.

burkelashell (author)  wlee177 months ago

That's a bummer. I'm sorry to hear it.

One way to troubleshoot would be to connect only the power (connections 3 & 4), and the temperature probe. If the controller powers up, lets you set it, and displays the temperature, you know you have a couple of the wires correct. Then, you can add additional wires.

I hope that helps.

bennelson made it!7 months ago

I built one, just using an enclosure I had kicking around. Working pretty good so far. If you add a Kill A Watt, you can also track power and total cooking energy. For anyone wondering, my Crock-Pot uses 160 watts on high and 90 watts on low, and a simple emersion "tea cup heater" runs at 70 watts.

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